There was one particular moment this year that has stayed with me. It was from a visit to Dollow Health Referral Centre in Gedo in southern Somalia, one of several health facilities run by Trócaire in the region.
The centre was crowded with dozens of mothers holding malnourished, sick babies, waiting to be assessed by doctors. In the stabilization unit there were infants who had been admitted for treatment for acute malnutrition, many on the brink of death.
I met one mother who had just arrived with her critically ill baby. I sat and spoke with her and will never forget the pain that was in her eyes. Despite the fact that the tiny infant girl was given the very best of care by our health team, she died within two days. It was heart breaking.
This is just one tragic story of many this year from Somalia and the Horn of Africa where a devastating hunger crisis, driven by five seasons of drought, has resulted in over 20 million people being at risk of starvation in the region.
The relentless drought – caused by climate change – has led to the forced displacement of over one million people this year. An estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five will experience acute malnutrition by early in 2023 – the equivalent of every child and young person under the age of 25 in Ireland.
Another Somali mother whom I met with her 5 children show the human tragedy behind these numbers. Nurto Abshiro left her home because the drought had killed almost all of their livestock. She now lives in an internally displaced persons’ camp. Every day, she leaves her four youngest children in the care of 10-year-old Ahada and goes to try to find work so she can buy food. She said that she returns with nothing 4 out of 7 days and the family doesn’t eat. When her children fall ill, she relies on Trócaire’s support to save their lives.
Trócaire has been working in Gedo district in Southern Somalia since 1992, delivering essential health services and humanitarian assistance to more than a quarter of a million people a year. We are the only international NGO to have remained in Gedo through 30 years of conflict and insecurity. If we were not there many children who have received treatment would have died. We are proud of this and will continue to be there to do all we can with the support of the Irish people.